Talking to Kids about Consent

Trigger Warning, this post mentions abuse.

I just found this in my drafts. Not sure why I never posted it… still relevant, so here ya go! 

I shared a wonderful story earlier this week on my facebook page that I recommend you go and read right now.
It got me thinking about how to talk to my kids about consent, about respecting their own body and other’s. This is a concept that exists in our house, but I always like to get more ideas of how to open conversations about this with the kids, because these issues are always relevant.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about talking to the kids about consent, about being aware of themselves and protecting themselves, etc. Today someone I spoke to about it mentioned that often one of reasons children who were abused or assaulted don’t speak up is that they feel complicit and may have even on some level enjoyed or been excited by the experience.
I turned that over in my head this afternoon.

Then, this evening I watched a high school performance of the Lion King in Hebrew with my kids (my mom’s school, they did a really incredible job!) and I had a moment of clarity.
Two scenes spurred a very excellent conversation with the kids this evening:
1. Where Scar tells Simba about the elephant graveyard and 2. where Scar arranges for Simba to be “responsible” for his father’s death.

In the first scene, Scar “accidentally” lets it slip that the dark area beyond the borders of pride rock is an elephant graveyard. He then tells Simba that the reason Mufasa forbids him from going there is because “only the bravest lions go there.” He was feeding Simba’s curiosity and his desire to prove himself. And then he said, “promise me you’ll never go there… and remember, it’s our little secret.”

In the second scene, the dialogue was similarly conspiratorial, Scar play the role of “mischievous uncle” and of course, Simba was made to feel responsible for his father’s death because he was in the valley when the stampede occurred. The interesting part of this scene was that this time Simba was not somewhere that he was forbidden to be.

So as the kids got ready for bed we talk about this story. My children are 8, 6 and 4 (the 11yo and the 2yo weren’t involved in the conversation, but not for the same reasons! One was doing homework, and the other was busy fighting DH’s attempts to put on his PJ’s!)

How a person that Simba felt he could trust get him to do something that was forbidden. Even though we know Scar’s plan, Simba didn’t and we talked about the words that made Simba feel like it was his fault/ his idea. And we also talked about how Simba was excited to go and even though it was scary, he wanted to go check it out.

So then we role played and that was the really interesting part.

I said, “What if you were Simba. Let’s say you and Naala are on your way to the Elephant graveyard and Sarabi (the mom) catches up with you.” I took the role of mom.

“Simba, where are you going? didn’t you say you were going to the Water Hole?”
My 8yo daughter, the actress, said, “Oh, I forgot the way.” When I asked her why she would choose to say that she said, “I wouldn’t say that! But I think Simba would!” So we clarified that we were being ourselves but playing out this scene.
Then I said, gently, “Simba, you know you’re not allowed to go to that area. Why would you do this? Did somebody tell you to go there?”
My 6yo son answered, “Yes, Scar.” the 8yo looked uncomfortable. So we talked about why it might be hard for Simba to tell his mom the truth. That he might feel guilty, and that he might feel that he didn’t want to tell on Scar, or that she might not believe him because Scar is his uncle and he’s an adult. And I told them that no matter what they would tell me, ever, I would first believe them. I used a different example here, The Cat in the Hat.
“Even if you told me that the Cat in the Hat came to our house while I was out and made a big mess and broke stuff and then cleaned it all up, I would believe you! I don’t think that such a thing could happen, but I wasn’t here and if you told me it happened, I would believe you. And then I would try to find out how it could be.”

The we went back to the Lion King story, “So if you told me that Scar told you about the graveyard, I would first believe you, even if I didn’t think it was possible.”

The kids shared some very interesting insights, I got a peak into their inner world. I also got some encouraging confirmation that they know they can trust me and Yoram and that they are emotionally strong, healthy and stable children, thank God!

Here’s to opening lines of communication with our kids.

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2 Responses to Talking to Kids about Consent

  1. saribacon says:

    Ayelet- this us an excellent segue to that conversation! It always felt “icky” to me and that’s why. “Our little secret” that’s the key phrase – always. Any adult who ever tells a child to withhold anything from their parents is suspect. Even if it’s not abuse, it’s potentially harassment , demagoguery, bullying, inappropriate relationship, abusing the imbalance of power of the adult and child relationship. Good for you!

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